Thursday, October 09, 2008

Abuja Streets and Our Heroes

Any society that overlooks the contributions of its past heroes finds it difficult to make meaningful progress. This is because it kills role models from whom contemporary and future leaders should learn. It also discourages patriotism and selfless service. So, most people, given the opportunity, would rather grab whatever they could from the commonwealth as a form of self-reward than wait for any national reward after they might have retired or expired.
Such is the case with Nigeria where our skewed national reward system for past heroic efforts tends to portray us as a patently ungrateful people.
In a ground-breaking move last Wednesday, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo Umar announced the naming and renaming of some major streets and roads in the FCT after national icons whose contributions in various ways to the country’s socio-economic, political and cultural development were widely acknowledged by the public, but were not so recognised by government.
Names of such great Nigerians as the late Sir Dennis Osadebey and the late Nwafor Orizu, both First Republic Senate Presidents, Dr Joseph Wayas, Second Republic Senate President, Professors Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, both literary giants, late Prof. Claude Ake, renowned social scientist, late Prof Chike Obi, renowned mathematician, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Bishop David Oyedepo, late Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, the late Pa Michael Imoudu, the late Dr. Tai Solarin, the late Dele Giwa, late Babatunde Jose, Malam Turi Muhammed, Abubakar Imam, Ali Ciroma, Kanu Nwankwo, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Mary Onyali, late Sam Okwaraji, Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, late Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, late Sonny Okosun, Mamman Shata, among others, will now adorn Abuja streets.
Hitherto, most of the streets used to bear the names of events, institutions and people that have little or no historical, political, geographical or sociological relevance to the country.
This move, coming auspiciously on the nation’s 48th independence anniversary, is a worthy and commendable recognition of the heroic deeds of these citizens. It is a double-edged sword, by which the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) not only gave honour to those who deserve it, but also corrected the anomalies of previous street naming exercises in the FCT. In particular, the FCT Minister should be commended for correcting the misnomer in the naming of streets in the Apo Legislative Quarters. Before now, most streets in this bastion of our fledgling democracy were curiously named after military personnel. The minister has, however, corrected this with the renaming of streets in and around Apo after Nigerians with democratic credentials.
It is, however, noteworthy that the list of honorees is not exhaustive as it omits the names of some prominent Nigerians whom we think are also deserving of such honour. For instance, we consider people like the late Chief Bola Ige, assassinated former Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, the late Rev. Fr. Tansi, the first African Catholic Bishop to be beatified and the late Sheikh Muhammed Kamaldeen, the late founder of the Ansarul-Islam worthy of having streets named after them in Abuja, the nation’s symbol of unity. And definitely, it would not be a bad idea if the late Ogoni rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa was included in the list of honorees, if only to heal the wounds of his execution by the Abacha regime.
President Umaru Yar’Adua and his deputy, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan were also included in the list of honorees, but, according to the FCT Minister, both turned down the gesture on the basis that it should take a succeeding administration to name things after them if they are found worthy. This, to say the least, is a mark of the duo’s modesty and a subtle lesson that such honors should not be dispensed as a mark of obsequious handouts to incumbents.
In the same regard, we expect the Federal Government to stop the growing trend in which award of the annual national honours is done, as if it is an automatic entitlement of people.
People should be rewarded for landmark achievements made and not merely for holding a political office, which, in any case, is often abused by many.